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"Game-changer" - preparing our isolated marae for emergencies

Wednesday, 23 February 2022.

Twenty emergency pods will be set up and resourced around our region to better prepare some of our isolated marae for emergencies.

Civil Defence manager Ben Green has called the Tairāwhiti Marae Resilience and Emergency Preparedness project a “game-changer”.

The disaster-equipped pods will make Tairāwhiti an extremely well-prepared region in the event of a significant tsunami or flood.

“The collaborative approach we’ve taken and the model we will implement can provide a regional example for the rest of the country, “says Mr Green.

The project is co-funded by Te Puni Kōkiri, Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata and Te Rūnanga o Tūranganui-ā-Kiwa as part of the Te Puni Kōkiri Kāinga Rua fund initiative.

Te Puni Kōkiri team leader Kemara Keelan says marae are not only sites of cultural significance but often used as a Civil Defence hub and crisis response units.

“For rural communities that are vulnerable to natural hazards this funding acknowledges the role in which marae and hau kāinga play in the resilience and efficacy of those communities.

“Te Puni Kōkiri’s role is to partner with organisations like Council and mana whenua to adequately resource the preparedness planning that will ultimately help whānau to be ready if and when an emergency strikes.”

Mr Green says the collaboration with iwi, hapū and whānau has been a highlight of this project along with the endorsement of the iwi leadership.

“It’s a great example of having a combined approach to support marae clusters by providing these emergency resources to create community-based disaster support systems.”

The 20 emergency ‘pods’ will be funded over three phases in locations identified as “safe zones” within tsunami and flood-prone locations.

Each pod will be a 20ft shipping container and include:

  • Backup power generator
  • Communications equipment
  • Emergency shelter tents
  • Water treatment unit
  • Camp stretchers
  • Portable toilet
  • Enough non-perishable food to last 100 people four weeks
  • Medical kit and a Civil Defence digital radio.

Te Puni Kōkiri kick-started the project by providing $964,938 for Phase One.

Phases Two and Three are being covered by Toitū Tairāwhiti (iwi collective that includes Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata and Te Rūnanga o Tūranganui-ā-Kiwa) with an investment of $596,058.

Several agencies will contribute training and resources.

Mr Green says the location of these pods was determined using science and hazard modelling combined with knowledge from whānau and hapū about their area.

“Local knowledge of tangata whenua is a key component of these plans which were then married up with the science.”

Mr Green says this project will be a significant enhancement for our hapū and whānau to enable them to be able to respond to and recover from significant disaster events.

“Our rohe is spread across a large geographical area. We are among some of the most isolated areas in New Zealand.

“Most of our district is at risk from natural hazards such as flooding and landslides blocking arterial routes.

“Our most prevalent danger is an earthquake in the Hikurangi subduction zone directly off Tairāwhiti causing a devastating tsunami.

“Last year GNS updated the risk for Hikurangi and published there is a 26 per cent chance of this happening in the next 50 years.

“It’s imperative we are prepared and help our isolated communities be ready to look after themselves in the short term.”

Phase one will cover 10 townships including coastal rohe from Whāngārā to Te Araroa, and inland townships Manutūkē and Muriwai.

Phase Two includes Pātūtahi, Pōtaka/Lottin Point, Waihau Bay/Loisells, Ruatōrea, Waihīrere and Te Karaka.

Phase Three includes Wharerātā, Tiniroto and Matawai.

Preparing our isolated marae for emergencies

Socially distanced for the photo but working together closely to ensure Tairāwhiti is one of the best-prepared regions in the country for a natural disaster. From left are Te Puni Kōkiri senior advisor Raaniera Te Whata, Civil Defence manager Ben Green, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki chairperson Pene Brown, Ngāti Porou CEO George Reedy, Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri Tūtū Poroporo Trust CEO Doug Jones and Ngāti Porou chairperson Selwyn Parata.